Two young neighbours at EcoMaris

Supported by the Port, two young people from the Port of Montreal’s surrounding community are embarking on marine careers after a week aboard the Roter Sand sail training vessel, .

Young interns carry out various manoeuvres and learn in the heat of the action under the
watch of officers aboard the Roter Sand.


She’s made up her mind: Brenda Francisco is going to be a navigation officer. After trying all kinds of other things, including cartooning, ocean rescue, woodworking and tree pruning, this young woman had the chance of a lifetime when she boarded the Roter Sand sail training vessel for a week-long course on the St. Lawrence River. The experience was a real revelation.

There were seven youths in all, under the guidance of Captain Lancelot Tremblay and ship officers Ariane Tessier-Moreau and Yves Plante. The crew set sail from Montreal on August 18, bound for Quebec City. “What I liked the most was taking the helm, piloting the ship! We’re the ones who did the rigging, who got to do everything on board,” exclaimed Brenda, bright-eyed.

The Roter Sand is the first sail training vessel in Quebec with an environmental mission. The founder of the EcoMaris project, Simon Paquin, a 38-year-old educational psychologist, set out to help youth, especially dropouts, find meaning in their life and figure out their place in society and the role of humans in the ecosystem. “Group life aboard a sailboat is an excellent school to learn how to become a responsible citizen,” he said.

Brenda Francisco (right) listens to instructions from Ariane Tessier-
Moreau about points of sail or, en other words, the position of a
vessel in relation to the wind.


Brenda Francisco is one of the two youths, and Andy O’Hara is the other, who benefited from two $1,350 grants awarded by the Port of Montreal to two members of the Port’s surrounding community to cover the cost of the course on the Roter Sand. The two recipients were scouted by two partners of the port located in Montreal’s east end, Marine Papin, psychosocial worker at Ateliers Bons Débarras, and Sessi Hounkanrin, professional development coach and head of the mentoring program at Carrefour jeunesse-emploi Hochelaga-Maisonneuve (CJEHM).

Brenda Francisco : "What I liked
the most was taking the helm."

“I’ve always loved everything related to sailors’ lives. It was like a secret passion, a childhood dream. I never would have even dared think I could make a career in it,” said Andy O’Hara, a tall young 19-year-old of Irish ancestry with an artistic temperament. Now he can picture himself as a helmsman aboard an ocean-going merchant ship: “It came to me on the third day aboard the Roter Sand. I was standing at the bow of the sailboat. The sun was setting and we were gliding on the water. It was perfect!”

Both students can’t say enough. They especially appreciated the teaching method aboard the Roter Sand. “It was well structured, with theory and lots of practice,” explained Andy. “They tell you what to do and how to do it, but they don’t talk down to you like you’re a kid. Also, the officers were very focused on security, but at the same time, there was room for fun,“ said Brenda. They did everything: not only rigging and other ship manoeuvres, but also the cooking and cleaning.

“The group dynamic was extraordinary and the integration went very smoothly,” said Ariane Tessier-Moreau. “What the young people found hardest was leaving the ship at the end of the week.”

Andy O'Hara is about to live his childhood dream.

Andy O’Hara will soon enrol at the training centre for emergency measures in Saint-Romuald, a required course to become a mariner. As for Brenda Francisco, she opted for the four-year university course at the Canadian Coast Guard College in Sydney, Nova Scotia. “I’ll help protect the waters and I’ll be right in the action. It’s a good fit with my personality,” said this daughter of Portuguese immigrants, whose father used to be an electrician in the Navy in his home country.

Meantime, she had to get to work at a Portuguese rotisserie. She left on her longboard, nimbly sliding down the sidewalk, the wind in her sails.

Read the article on EcoMaris in the Spring 2013 issue of Logbook.